Last Feb. 22, a California State University-Monterey Bay police officer was called to a dormitory on a report of a student in the throes of a suicidal crisis. Between the time that officer reached the student’s door and the student was placed in an ambulance, there are only five people who know what happened inside that dorm room – and the stories diverge so wildly that, as of now, it’s impossible to know the truth.
The initial story, broken last Wednesday by KSBW reporter Lauren Seaver, was chilling. And the CSU officer, whose name has yet to be released, claims he is on the verge of losing his job based on what did or didn’t happen.
What the officer says, according to the president of the Statewide University Police Association and his attorney, is this: He refused to use his Taser because he was concerned about the student’s health.
Sexy story, right? In an era where violent protests against police brutality are rocking the country, a campus cop refused to do harm to a student in crisis.
But the three Marina police officers called to help the CSU officer say this: The CSU officer refused to use his Taser or otherwise help them get the agitated student under control so paramedics could take him to a hospital. Instead, the CSU officer handed his Taser to one of the Marina officers and froze, according to Marina Police Chief Edmundo Rodriguez.
“He froze. And I’ve said it before,” Rodriguez says. “That’s the description I’d use.”
“IF THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO, I DON’T NEED YOU.”
Four people, two different stories. And the student, the fifth person in that room, isn’t saying anything at all right now.
Rodriguez stopped by the Weekly’s office on Friday afternoon to discuss issues with how the story was being reported. While Weekly reporter David Schmalz left messages with Rodriguez’s assistant, the messages didn’t reach the chief until we reported, “Rodriguez didn’t respond… ”
What Rodriguez described to Schmalz and me on Friday was a bloody and chaotic scene made more chaotic by the CSU officer’s inability to control things. When Marina police arrived, they found a blood trail leading to the bedroom – there they found the student with bloody T-shirts wrapped around his slashed wrists. A knife was on the bed, along with a hammer. The CSU officer was talking to the student, who was asking for water.
But then the CSU officer went outside, to either take or make a phone call. While the CSU officer says the student was never out of his sight, Rodriguez says, “That’s simply not true.”
The student got up and insisted on leaving the room, Rodriguez says. When two of the Marina officers ordered him to sit down and wait for medical help (the third officer was outside waiting to direct the EMTs), he allegedly became combative – “He resisted very strongly,” Rodriguez says – and that’s when the Tasers came out.
At least one of the Marina officers used a Taser, while a second, who was handed the CSU officer’s Taser, “dry fired,” meaning he used the prongs directly on the student’s legs.
The student was handcuffed and taken to a hospital.
After the incident was over, the Marina sergeant on the scene was so concerned by the CSU officer’s actions that he immediately reported it to a Marina commander, who in turned called the CSU police.
The union president says the CSU officer told Marina police he thought they were heavy handed: “‘If that’s what you’re going to do, I don’t need you.’”
Rodriguez’s characterization of what was said is diametrically opposed.
“He called the sergeant to thank them and said his department policy did not allow for him to take that type of action.”
Rodriguez was unwilling to let the Weekly speak directly to his officers. Because the CSU officer claims Marina police used their Tasers on a suicidal student without cause, Rodriguez says he’s obligated to investigate.
“All indications are we did what we needed to do to get medical assistance,” he says.
The CSU officer’s attorney says the officer, who was placed on leave pending termination, will sue to get his job back.